Category Archives: Loree Griffin Burns

Loree Griffin Burns: Cool Buzz!

From: A Life in Books
October 18, 2012 at 11:22AM

© Catherine Griffin Burns

“Put on your veil, grab your hive tool, and light up your smoker … we’re going into a beehive.”

When I wrote those words to open THE HIVE DETECTIVES, I never, ever, ever thought I would say them out loud in my own backyard. But on Tuesday, with my daughter and her camera nearby, I did just that. And guess who was there to hear them?

Mary Duane!

Mary is the beekeeper who helped me introduce honey bees and hives and honey-making to readers in THE HIVE DETECTIVES. How fitting that she be the one to help me through my first hive inspection, patiently reminding me how to keep my smoker lit, how to use my hive tool properly, and how to stay calm when a honey bee landed on my veil. (I honestly couldn’t tell if it was on the outside or the inside.)

Oh, the places a book will bring you!

Loree Griffin Burns: Saturday …

From: A Life in Books
September 24, 2012 at 08:36AM


… was a seriously great mail day. You are very welcome, Princess Sydney!

Loree Griffin Burns: Messages in Bottles

From: A Life in Books
September 06, 2012 at 07:24AM

© Betty Jenewin

You can’t write about flotsam and jetsam without coming across a message in a bottle or two. When I was researching Tracking Trash, I came across quite a few, including the one pictured here. It was collected by beachcomber John Anderson near his Forks, Washington home and like all bottle messages, it has stories to tell. There are the personal stories, of course: who launched the bottle and why? who found the bottle and how? And then there are the stories of its oceanic movement: how far did the bottle drift between its launch and its discovery?

The possibilities in these stories thrill me.

Which is why I was so intrigued by news of a new ‘oldest message in a bottle’, as verified by the Guinness Book of World Records. There are ninety-eight years of stories in that bottle, launched in the North Sea on June 10, 1914 and found by a skipper in Scotland earlier this year. Here’s a bit of  its personal story, and here’s a look at some of the science.

Cool stuff, no?

Loree Griffin Burns: Wednesday Wild: Garter Snake

From: A Life in Books
September 05, 2012 at 09:27AM

© Loree Griffin Burns


There was an eighteen-inch Eastern garter snake hanging out in my yard over the weekend, bringing the total number of snake species recorded here at the new Burns homestead to two. (Remember this guy?)

In other news, there is a Great horned owl hanging out somewhere nearby. I’ve heard him two out of the last three nights.  Sorta makes a girl want to head outside and look for pellets …

Have a wild day!


Loree Griffin Burns: Wednesday Wild: Sea Urchin

From: A Life in Books
August 30, 2012 at 01:43PM

© Gerry Burns


Another wild photo from our trip to Acadia in July. And, yes, I realize it is not Wednesday. But yesterday was filled with First Day of School and Back to Work craziness, and I forgot.

Happy Thursday!

Loree Griffin Burns: Where Science Meets Adventure

From: A Life in Books
August 30, 2012 at 12:58PM


Attention teachers and science lovers: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has launched a new website devoted entirely to the award-winning Scientists in the Field (SITF) series. These books for upper elementary and middle school students cover an impressive array of science topics, from honey bees and trash (my two entries in the series, pictured above) to sea horses, wild horses, manatees, tarantulas, anthropology, space exploration, and beyond. The new site includes an overview of the series, including every SITF title, and features sneak peeks from upcoming titles and updates from the authors.

What are you waiting for? Go check it out!

Loree Griffin Burns: Wednesday Wild: Question Mark Butterfly

From: A Life in Books
August 15, 2012 at 10:06AM

© Loree Griffin Burns


I had to pull out my trusty butterfly field guides in order to ID this fellow. See that white marking on the hind wing, the one that looks like a question mark on its side? That was the key.

Happy Wednesday!

Loree Griffin Burns: Leepike Ridge

From: A Life in Books
August 09, 2012 at 09:53AM

We can’t put this book down. And I can’t stop reminding my daughter, who is reading with me, that she should never sneak out of the house at night and climb on top of a styrofoam raft …

Loree Griffin Burns: Wednesday Wild: Vacation Edition #2

From: A Life in Books
August 08, 2012 at 06:20PM

© Gerry Burns


More seaside wildlife this week, direct from our vacation on Mount Desert Island in Maine. This was a decent-sized hermit crab, though you’d never know it because we forgot to put something in the photo for scale. Anyway, he was discovered on the sandbar connecting Bar Harbor and Bar Island, just as the sun was setting on another gorgeous August afternoon.
I hope you had some wild in your Wednesday!

Loree Griffin Burns: The Man Who Planted Trees

From: A Life in Books
August 06, 2012 at 04:03AM


Lost Groves, Champion Trees and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet

By Jim Robbins

Spiegel & Grau, 2012

Category: Nonfiction for Grownups

We can wait around for someone else to solve the problem of climate change and the range of other environmental problems we face, from toxic waste to air pollution to dead zones in the oceans to the precipitous decline in biodiversity, or we can take matters into our own hands and plant trees.

If you have even a smidgeon of doubt that this statement is true, read this book. I predict that when you’re done, you’ll plant a tree. Or twenty.

Postscript: For those of you who are truly into nonfiction, particularly children’s nonfiction, don’t forget about the weekly Nonfiction Monday celebration. Check it out here!

Loree Griffin Burns: Quick Quiz!

From: A Life in Books
August 02, 2012 at 10:01AM

© Loree Griffin Burns

If you’ve read my new book, Citizen Scientists, then you know each chapter concludes with a Quick Quiz that tests readers’ knowledge of the butterflies, birds, frogs, and ladybugs they’ve been reading about.  The little fellow in the photo above, who I met this week, has inspired me to create an online version today.

On a recent trip to Maine, my family and I came upon a pond covered in lily pads and ringing with the sounds of a one-stringed banjo. (Want to see a photo of this pond? Click here.) At first we couldn’t see the banjo strummers, because they blended so well with the lily pads. But because we’ve studied frog calls a bit, we knew who we were dealing with.

Do you?

First clue: its call sounds like a one-stringed banjo.

Second clue: the frog is pictured in the photo above, which was taken after one of my kids tossed a pebble into the pond and got the frogs there moving enough for me to see them!

So … which New England frog is it?

Loree Griffin Burns: Wednesday Wild: Vacation Edition

From: A Life in Books
August 01, 2012 at 06:46AM

© Loree Griffin Burns

You know I love the wild in my own backyard … but this summer I had the chance to venture outside of it and explore another wild place: Acadia National Park.

Oh, my. It’s a spectacular place!

On one of my favorite adventures, we found this baby turtle sunning and stretching its legs (if you look closely you can see the stretching) on a pond not far from Eagle Lake on Mount Desert Island. If pictures came with audio, this one would feature the croaking of frogs, the chattering of squirrels, the squawking of crows, and the gentle rain of wind moving through the surrounding forest. Heavenly.

Loree Griffin Burns: Peepers Out of Season

From: A Life in Books
July 30, 2012 at 08:55PM

© Loree Griffin Burns

I’m soaking up John Hanson Mitchell’s A FIELD GUIDE TO YOUR OWN BACK YARD: A SEASONAL GUIDE TO THE FLORA & FAUNA OF THE EASTERN US this week, and I came across these words among his early spring (April, May, June) thoughts on peepers:

“… although a great deal is known about the mating habits of this common frog, not much is known about the other nine months of its life.”

They caught my attention because I happened to have observed something interesting about the post early-spring life of spring peepers recently. For the past two field seasons, while hunting for ladybugs in a milkweed meadow here in central Massachusetts, I’ve come across a surprising number of resting peepers. I’d estimate that I’ve made 4-6 individual observations, and always on the hottest and most humid of peak summer days. In each case, the frog in question was sitting on the top face of a milkweed leaf about three to four feet off the ground, shaded by the leaves above it.

Perhaps this is common spring peeper behavior? Perhaps its been observed and recorded a thousand times? Or–and I love this idea–perhaps I’ve seen something new?

There are ways to find out, of course. I can consult field guides and amphibian research journals in search of information on spring peeper behaviors recorded in summertime. I can get in touch with amphibian experts or local naturalists and ask them what they know. Or I could simply continue watching milkweed meadows and recording my peeper observations. Citizen-scientist-style.

Loree Griffin Burns: Step Gently Out

From: A Life in Books
July 19, 2012 at 06:31AM


Poem by Helen Frost

Photographs by Rick Lieder

Candlewick, 2012

Category: Nonfiction picture book (but truly for all ages)

It was the title that grabbed me first. Step Gently Out. There is an ethic in those words, and they have deep meaning for me. When the book was finally in my hands, though, it was the ant on the cover that pulled me in. He is not rendered in paints as I’d thought when I’d seen the book online, but photographed. Captured atop a slender leaf, antennae waving, stepping gently. Completely enchanting.

Would you believe that things got better from there?

Helen Frost’s text is charming, and I can tell you from personal experience that it holds up to repeated readings. Rick Lieder’s breathtaking images lend a hand, inspiring closer looks at blades of grass and silken threads both inside the book and, of course, out.

I find myself reading this one over and again. I’m in love.  I think that every child on the planet should have a copy. I plan to start with the half-dozen kids who know me as Auntie Loree …

Loree Griffin Burns: The Flora and Fauna of Our Place

From: A Life in Books
July 17, 2012 at 09:30AM

© Loree Griffin Burns

As a science project for our homeschool year (2010-2011), my three kids and I created an inventory of all the creatures we’d documented in our suburban back yard. We scoured a decade of garden photographs and, at the same time, began spending loads of time outdoors looking for animals we had not yet recorded. At the time, we lived on a one acre property about five minutes outside Worcester, the second largest city in Massachusetts. I was SHOCKED at the diversity we found on our little patch of Earth. Talk about a year of surprising discoveries and unexpected connections!  I have been thinking and writing about it ever since.

This month, a portion of our project is on display at the Beaman Memorial Library, including the stick insect above (I’d never seen a stick insect in my life, outside the movie Ants, but when I started looking closely, they popped up regularly) and the introduction below …

In September 2010, we began to organize years of our backyard photographs as part of a science project on animal classification. We were shocked to discover that a fairly large variety of creatures from the Animal Kingdom were living under our noses. Here are a few of our findings …


  • Of the nine phyla in the Animal Kingdom, we photographed members of four (Chordata, Arthropoda, Annelida, and Mollusca).


  • Of the seven classes of animals with backbones, we recorded four (Amphibia, Reptilia, Aves, and Mammalia).


  • Of the ten species of frogs and toads found in Massachusetts, we saw four in our yard, and we managed to see three others around central Massachusetts.


We spotted an amazing variety of other animals in our one-acre West Boylston yard, including stick insects, cicadas, katydids, a clearwing moth, monarch butterflies, two species of salamander, a snake, pileated woodpeckers, a ruby-throated hummingbird, a porcupine, a groundhog, deer, and a black bear! Some of our favorite animal photographs are shown here. We hope you like looking at them … and we hope our project inspires you to look more closely at your backyard.

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